We crossed the border into Iraq the first day of the war, and were pretty much going non-stop from then until April 9th when we flew into the airport. During the attack to Baghdad, we would jump forward a distance, set up our operations assembly area, fly missions supporting the main effort for several days, and then jump again. We kept that cycle for about 20 days until we finally jumped to Baghdad. It was fast and furious for a while, but now has fallen into a Groundhog's Day routine of the same thing day after day.
I rode up to Baghdad in the ground convoy on the 9th and that was our first real contact with the local poplulation. Up until that point we had pretty much been out in the desert, away from populated areas, and the only contact we had with the Iraqi people was when they would wander up in small groups to our assembly area usually asking for food or water. As I was driving into the city, it was reassuring to see the smiles on the children's faces waving as we drove past, and the thumbs up from their parents. It validated my feelings that we are really doing some good here.